One day…

“If you’re not going to go all the way, why go all.”

Joe Namath

One day you’ll look back and be proud, indifferent, or disappointed in how you spent your time on this earth. Which one are you going to choose? Make that choice today.

Digital distancing…

“Disconnecting from our technology to reconnect with ourselves is absolutely essential for wisdom.”

Arianna Huffington

This weekend I had one of those all too rare experiences where I had very limited cellular and internet service. We went camping as a family on our farm so we could appropriately distance from any and everyone. I didn’t realize until we got there that we would have almost no connectivity. While I did make sure to drive out to get a message to those I work with, and also to check in a few times just to make sure I wasn’t missing any messages from work, I couldn’t read any news or receive any online news updates. That was the best part of having no service, there was no somber news and no way to get it, it was just good time spent with the family, laughter, campfires, and s’mores.

It was a great reminder that we aren’t built to be online and connected 24/7 no matter what is going on in the world. We are built to foster relationships with others, spend time outdoors and breathe fresh air. During a time like this when we are challenged to stay home and maintain a safe distance from everyone perhaps we should build in time to maintain a safe distance from constant connectivity and all that it entails…

Listening comes before learning…

“To listen is to continually give up all expectation and to give our attention, completely and freshly, to what is before us, not really knowing what we will hear or what that will mean. In the practice of our days, to listen is to lean in, softly, with a willingness to be changed by what we hear.”

Mark Nepo

You never know what you might learn when you really truly listen. I have to remind myself of this all the time. Sometimes we are all working so hard to listen only for what we want to hear that we forget that the real joy of listening is to learn. Once you have learned something, you can then be changed by it. You just have to commit to listen first. Easy to say, much harder to do…

Authentic equals vulnerable…

“The courage to be vulnerable is not about winning or losing, it’s about the courage to show up when you can’t predict or control the outcome.”

Brene Brown

The question I think of when I read this is “is being your true and authentic self and being vulnerable to expose that self to others worth it if you don’t win?”

For me the answer is an unambiguous yes. It is far better to be your true and authentic self than to be any pale shadow or imitation thereof. Living in an authentic life means to live a life of vulnerability. If you want to be authentic you have to be vulnerable.

Grateful for the gift…

“Dedicate some of your life to others. Your dedication will not be a sacrifice. It will be an exhilarating experience because it is an intense effort applied toward a meaningful end.”

Dr. Thomas Dooley

Today a dear friend called me to simply say hello and check in on me and the family. I can’t adequately convey the emotional value of this very human touch. It was an experience that totally made my day.

That this particular person reached out doesn’t surprise me at all, it is so much a part of his giving nature and true servant leader ethos. In many ways over the years I have looked to him as a tremendous mentor and the model of a person that I would very much like to be one day.

Reflecting on today’s quote with him in mind I would daresay that over the years he has dedicated a great portion of his life to others. I for one was very glad to be a recipient of that gift today.

Who are you going to give a piece of your life to?

You’re not alone…

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.”

C.S. Lewis

Adversity serves to bring people together and common experiences are great equalizers and can be a catalyst for the deepening of relationships. This is such a unique time in that EVERYONE is impacted by an external event and at the same time the ability to share in those experiences and build relationships is limited by the necessity of social distance.

What could be such a transformational time in the building of friendships actually has had the opposite effect and can create loneliness and feelings of isolation. It is also easy to focus on the negative aspects and spend any and all time conversing with others about the detrimental impacts this has had on you and those that you love.

How do you both focus on the positive and build/enhance relationships with others? I suggest finding someone in your network, your circle of friends and associates and simply reaching out to say hello and let them know that they were on your mind. Create a positive tone by inserting a thought like this into your dialogue. “While there are plenty of negative things to focus on, one thing I have really enjoyed is……………. What positive experiences have you shared or observed?”

What if we all found the one thing that was positive from today and shared it with someone else? What if we all found the time to tell someone that they weren’t alone…

Pick the one that matters…

“Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come, you have to get up and make them.”

Madame C.J. Walker

Read a book, or two, or scroll through social media? Binge watch a new (or old) show, or make a list of things that you’d like to do with all this time “created” by working from home and no longer commuting? Learn to play the guitar or spend time lamenting a loss of “freedom?”

Which one is going to have any meaning a year from now?

Do that one…

Fear not…

“As is our confidence, so is our capacity.”

William Hazlitt

What would you take on if you knew you could not fail? Does not having that guarantee of success cause you to take on less than you might and put forth less than you are capable of? Does fear limit confidence, and therefore capacity?

So what would you do if you weren’t afraid??

To speak, or not to speak…

“What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?”

Unknown

There are times when you know you must speak up, and times when you know you should bite your tongue. How do you know when to do which one? That is when the principle of wisdom comes into play? I like to use these two questions to gauge my thoughts and decide when I should say something.

“One year from now, regardless of the consequences will I be glad that I said whatever it?” “Will it matter that I said it?”

What could be?

“The problem with potential is: if it stays in potential form then it becomes procrastination.”

Steven Furtick

We all have untapped potential, things we are capable of doing, but haven’t just yet. There can be lots of reasons that potential stays under the surface and perhaps the most common is “I don’t have time.” The problem with that is there is never going to be enough time to dig deeper and surface those gifts unless you choose to dig. You have to decide to make unrealized potential become a reality.

For many the world is a bit different today that it was a month ago. It won’t be like this forever and at some point life will resume a more “normal” flow. The question is what are you doing right now to maximize this time and the opportunities presented?

There is an old truism that “people gaze so fiercely upon the door that is closed that they fail to see the one that has become opened to them.” I believe that definitely applies with the changes that have been forced upon many of us over the past few weeks. Instead of lamenting what was, is this an opportunity to spend time on “what could be?”

The “decade” of March…

“Knowledge comes from learning. Wisdom comes from living.”

Anthony Douglas Williams

A friend of mine sent me something the other day that I just found to be hilarious. In it he said “I just realized that I have been alive in seven decades. The 70’s, the 80’s, the 90’s, the 2000’s, the 2010’s, the 2020’s, and March…”

For many people I am sure that March certainly feels like it has been the longest month in the history of time doesn’t it? So much has happened that many people never expected was even possible. No matter how much knowledge you had going into this nothing compares to the wisdom that will come from having lived through it.

I have written before about my daily journal habit and the format that I use to capture my thoughts and learnings. I recently added a new question to my routine.

What is the wisdom I am meant to learn from this situation and how will I be able to apply that in my life as we grow out of this?

The time will pass, how can we ensure that our opportunity to gain wisdom doesn’t slip by?

Truly the best medicine…

“As soap is to the body, so laughter is to the soul.”

Jewish Proverb

There is nothing like laughter to make all the ills of the world disappear, even if only for a moment or two. This isn’t a new or contemporary realization of course. King Solomon wrote this verse in the book of Proverbs millennia ago; ‘A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. ‘ Proverbs 17:22

If you search for “the healing power of laughter” you will find countless results online. Well according to the Google search I just did there were about 11,700,000 results. One explanation on the power of laughter that I really liked came from the website for “The Council on Recovery”

“Laughing releases endorphins from your brain, reduces the level of stress in your body, and strengthens the immune system.  It is proven that laughter therapy, also known as humor therapy, can reduce negativity, emotional stress, and physical discomfort.”

Isn’t that exactly what we need right now? A reduction in stress? A strengthening of the immune system? A reduction in negativity, emotional stress and physical discomfort?

It can be so easy to become sucked into a vortex of negativity through stress inducing news alerts and a constant barrage of statistics on infection rates, government mandated shut downs, and a whole host of other negative mental influences. How can you possibly laugh if all the content that is pouring into your brain is evoking your primal “flight or fight” response?

If you want to laugh, you have to be intentional in creating the opportunities to do so by feeding your mind with humorous content and by surrounding yourself with others who make you laugh. Last night my wife and I did a virtual meeting with other couples from our church LifeGroup and while some of our discussion was on serious matters I would say that over 75% of the time we were just sharing stories and laughing. It was such a great way to break free from the mundane and seriousness of our current world.

There are a million ways to laugh, be intentional today and seek out things that hit your “funny bone” and bring joy to your heart. Whether it is funny cat videos on YouTube or a comedy special from a great comedian, you have within your power the ability to take what just might be your most important medicine. I’ll leave you with this from Dr. Viktor Frankl (who went through far worse things that we will ever experience), I never would have made it if I could not have laughed. It lifted me momentarily out of this horrible situation, just enough to make it livable.”

Laugh a little, that funny pill might be just what the doctor ordered….

Time and time again…

“The best way out is always through.”

Robert Frost

What is the biggest challenge you’ve ever faced? Was it five years ago, 10 perhaps? How did you make it through that challenge?

Through the lens of time no challenge ever seems as difficult or as Insurmountable. I wonder what we will say about this current challenge five or 10 years from now?

No matter what it is, keep moving forward. Hey, that’s what time does after all…

Ready to quit?

“Don’t ever give up. Don’t ever give in. Don’t ever stop trying. Don’t ever sell out. And if you find yourself succumbing to one of the above for a brief moment, pick yourself up, brush yourself off, whisper a prayer, and start where you left off. But never, ever, ever give up.”

Richelle E. Goodrich

How bad does it have to be to make quitting the best option? If you don’t know, then you aren’t there yet. Keep plugging away, it will get better, but it won’t if you quit…

Focus on the right things…

“Instead of focusing on the circumstances that you cannot change – focus strongly and powerfully on the circumstances that you can.”

Joy Page

Energy spent worrying about things you can’t control or influence is an investment with a guaranteed return of zero percent. In fact, a very good case could be made that there is a negative return on the investment because fear, doubt and worry serve to diminish your abilities across a wide spectrum of skills.

I find that in times of uncertainty or fear perhaps the best thing to do is to turn to a good book and seek to gain perspective. For me, one of my favorites is “Man’s Search For Meaning” by Viktor Frankl. Reading that always helps me find perspective on what is truly important in life. Having a strong sense of focus on the things that you can control, when so much of the world is out of control, is incredibly clarifying. Where are you investing your energy today?

Love somebody…

“Carry out a random act of kindness with no expectation of reward.”

Princess Diana

Fear, doubt and worry are all ultimately rooted in self. What is going to happen to me? How will I manage if something bad happens? Granted, you might be worried about others and what the implications are for them, but the center of the worry is a focus on self.

Instead of devoting energy today to things that are outside of your control, instead focus on finding someone else to love. Give a part of yourself away. It can be as simple as a smile to another person to another person on the street, paying for the meal of the person in the drive-thru line behind you, picking up groceries for a neighbor that isn’t able to leave their home, etc.

The point is to intentionally and purposefully find ways to give a tiny piece of yourself away. Look for ways to do good. Seek opportunities to serve. Focus on what you can do for someone else. Not because of what you are going to get in return, but because we all share the same human condition of being slaves to self. Follow the principle Paul spoke of in his letter to the church of Corinth.

‘Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. ‘

2 Corinthians 9:7-8

Break those bond of slavery to self through fear, doubt and worry and seek to sow the seeds of love in your actions today.

Be the change the worlds needs RIGHT NOW…

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”

Leo Tolstoy

When I picked out today’s quote I was thinking of the current state of our world with the coronavirus pandemic and the need to practice “social distancing” in order to slow down the spread of this virus. There have been pervasive news reports showing people who aren’t willing, or able, to make the modifications necessary in their lives to be part of the change that is needed in the world today.

Learning new habits and making massive change to deeply entrenched routines is hard. It doesn’t happen overnight and it is much easier to focus on things that “other people” need to do, but that for whatever reason aren’t things that you need to do yourself.

But knowing that change is hard doesn’t excuse one from having to do the hard work and make the changes that are needed. In fact, in a time like this, changing the world is not where our efforts and energy should be focused. We must put all our energies into creating transformation within the areas of life that we have the most control over, our own behavior and actions. In the end that is the only way we are going to change the world.

When you step back from the current situation, and the crisis that is necessitating these adjustments in our lives, the principles of creating transformation through focus on the change needed in oneself are just as important and relevant.

Maybe through all of this we can learn how to truly change the world, by learning how to change ourselves first…

Seek first…to serve…

“Grant that I may not so much seek…to be understood, as to understand…”

From the “Prayer of St. Francis” of Assisi

I always thought that “seek first to understand, and then to be understood,” was from Dr. Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Sounds like this wisdom has been been around for just a little while longer!

There is something so powerful that comes from asking a question with the intent to learn and truly hear what the other person has to say. Though I would argue that learning something new or different is likely the second most impactful outcome.

The most important, and meaningful, impact is on the person who is heard. They will be uplifted, encouraged, and feel valued. Seems like a pretty good deal to me. You learn, and you empower and enable at the same time. We could certainly use more of that in our world for sure.

The trees are blooming…

“Over the years, I’ve learned that if you can just hang in there and, regardless of what’s presented to you, take it as a challenge and try to bring in something fresh, then it works.”

Adam West

The thing that stands out the most to me from this quote are the first three words. “Over the years.” What a great reminder to us all that the time will pass by. Just yesterday morning I was watching a news report on the coronavirus and the reporter commented that the cherry blossom trees were starting to bloom in Washington DC.

Guess what? They are going to bloom again next year, and the year after that, and so on. All too often we have a perspective that can only see what is right in front of us. And yes, it might be tough, it might be challenging, it might be really painful and hard. But the years are going to pass. And if you focus on finding the silver lining, they will be far better than you have expected on the darkest day.

The monkey mind…

“You don’t have to control your thoughts. You just have to stop letting them control you.”

Dan Millman

The “monkey mind” can be an insidious being living inside of our brains. The real question becomes how much time and attention we give to that portion of our selves, versus a more rational and reasonable self.

How exactly do you take control of your mind when the monkey inside your head is running away with it? You can pause, breathe and think and simply take stock of what is actually going on, not what is going on in your mind. I have found this practice, when I do my part, to be incredibly powerful in shutting down the monkey mind.

So the next time you are overwhelmed by the narrative that you have created in your head, simply ask yourself you have taken the necessary time to pause and evaluate the circumstances. Have you given yourself time to breathe and allow yourself to have the space to think? If no, then do so and shut that darn monkey up forever!

Do your part…

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”

Desmond Tutu

It is easy to get overwhelmed with all that is going on around us; especially right now. Today as I write this we are in the midst of unprecedented world events due to the spread of the Coronavirus. But that doesn’t change the fact that we also have unprecedented opportunities to do more good, even if it is in a different way than we might have done just a few weeks ago.

Today, the little bit of good that we can each do is to follow the instructions from the government regarding “social distancing” and working from home. Someone shared the picture below with me yesterday and it is the best visualization I have yet seen to describe the impact of “social distancing.”

Source Unknown

So each of us can do our own tiny bit of good, where we are, and that can overwhelm that which threatens to overwhelm the world…

No fear…

“With integrity, you have nothing to fear, since you have nothing to hide. With integrity, you will do the right thing, so you will have no guilt.”

Zig Ziglar

With so much of the United States, and the rest of the world, on some type of quarantine or “work from home” restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic there has never been a better time for individual integrity to shine through.

Doing the right thing, even if no one is watching, is the thing that separates man from beast. When morals, principles, and a higher purpose outweigh baser instincts, then good triumphs over evil and courage defeats fear.

There is never any guilt when you have done the right thing. So stay home, work hard, and demonstrate courageous care for our fellow man by doing the right thing, even if no one is watching…

How do you define success?

“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.”

Albert Einstein

Success is a result of a intentional choices or actions. Striving to be of value is how you choose to show up. If your efforts aren’t a success, but you love how you showed up, isn’t that just success by a different name?

Know thyself…

“Circumstances don’t make the man, they only reveal him to himself.”

Epictetus

Who are you? Do you err to the side of pragmatism or sensationalism? Excitable or calm? Rational or emotional?

External stress can teach us a lot about ourselves, and once you know who you are, you can choose to make changes for the better…

No more sabre toothed tigers…

“One of the key qualities a leader must possess is the ability to detach from the chaos, mayhem, and emotions in a situation and make good, clear decisions based on what is actually happening.”

Jocko Willink

The more emotionally engaged one is with a given situation or challenge, the less data-driven and pragmatic you are likely to be. Case in point, there is a lot going on the world right now, and the impact and severity on the lives of others shouldn’t be minimized. However, making decisions based on an emotional response such as fear are far less likely to be well reasoned and rational than those decisions that are rooted in constructive and logical thinking practices.

When the “monkey mind” takes over, and emotions and chaos reign supreme, do what generations of successful leaders have preached across the centuries.

Pause. Breathe. Think.

There is nothing better than a deep breath and a moment of pause to help bring things into focus. If you don’t, then you are letting the reptilian portion of your brain rule your world. That might have worked in the age of sabre toothed tigers, but it doesn’t serve us well in most situations today…

Set your own bar…

“‎Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody else expects of you. Never excuse yourself. Never pity yourself. Be a hard master to yourself-and be lenient to everybody else.”

Henry Ward Beecher

If your most difficult master to please is yourself then disappointing others should be the least of your worries. It amazes me how much time people spending worrying about what others think instead of holding themselves to a higher standard.

The challenge becomes learning not to transfer that same high standard to everyone else around you. But then an inverse of the sentence above applies. Instead of worrying about the standards others have for themselves lead by the example you set for yourself.

Set your bar, exceed that bar, raise the bar and do it again. Don’t waste time worrying about the standards others set for you, they won’t set them high enough…

Clean your glasses…

“Gratitude doesn’t change the scenery.  It merely washes clean the glass you look through so you can clearly see the colors.”

Richelle E. Goodrich

I have written several times over the years about the transformational power of practicing gratitude intentionally through the use of a “gratitude journal.” (you can find some of those posts here)

Awareness of all the gifts I have received is a daily practice for me and is something that I have woven into several places throughout my daily routine. I found that I needed to do this to ensure that I find moments of time throughout the day to clear the “smudges” from the glasses through which I see the world. It is just too easy to get caught up in the all the activity and busyness of life and forget how richly blessed we all are.

The world has a way of obscuring our ability to truly see what is right in front of us. The analogy that comes to mind is how a swimmer has to be intentional in cleaning their goggles to ensure that they can see where they are going. If you don’t then the goggles will invariably fog up and you have no idea where you are going. This might not matter much in a pool, but when you are swimming in a lake or the ocean it can make a huge difference.

Regularly practicing gratitude awareness is truly transformational. It legitimately changes how you see the world. It wipes away the fog that gets in the way of your growth and progress.

If you haven’t tried this yet, I highly encourage you to simply start by taking your daily planner, journal, notebook, (whatever system you use to manage your day) and writing down three things you are grateful for when you first wake up. It won’t take long, no more than a minute or two. Look at this list throughout the day. Add to it if you like. Then before bed write down three more things. Bullets are fine. Single words are fine. Again, it doesn’t have to take long. As the days turn into weeks and the weeks into months you will find that how you approach your life will change. Instead of taking so many things for granted, you will have the power to appreciate the richness of the gifts and blessings we each receive on a daily basis.

Life is too short not to fully live it. Be thankful for each day you have and don’t let your glasses or goggles become so smudged that you can’t recognize how blessed you are…

Distraction free zone…

“We all need to get the balance right between action and reflection. With so many distractions, it is easy to forget to pause and take stock.”

Queen Elizabeth

Sometimes it is nice to simply drive with the car radio turned off (hmm, why exactly do we even call it a radio anymore anyway?!) and enjoy some quiet time to think and reflect. Taking a long drive can be my best opportunity to think and be disconnected from all the digital distractions that demand every spare second of our time.

How do you intentionally find time to pause and reflect before tearing into the next task or action? Do you have a distraction free zone that allows you to think clearly?

If you don’t find the time, then you are going to burn out, or find yourself performing at a sub-optimal level. You can’t run the engine at max RPM’s forever without the performance degrading. Take the time to pause and reflect, it’s worth it.

Go sailing…

“It is the set of the sails, not the direction of the wind that determines which way we will go.”

Jim Rohn

The beauty of sailing is that you must constantly adjust and tweak your course and your trim in order to arrive at your desired destination. There isn’t one set way to get there, every day is different and dynamic based on the current, wind speed, wind direction and conditions of the sea.

Hmm, this sounds a lot like life doesn’t it? The key is your ability to adjust to changing conditions so that you still arrive at the right location…

Assume you don’t know everything…

“Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”

Alan Alda

What are those things that you “know” to be true and have complete knowledge of? It should be a pretty short list if you are being honest with yourself.

So if you don’t have complete knowledge of something it is a little easier to disassociate ego from a situation and your need to be right. Remove that filter and assumptions can vanish, and the light can come streaming in…

What we deserve…

“The ego is the single biggest obstruction to the achievement of anything.”

Richard Rose

If you think about it, the only thing that ever really gets in our way, is the ability to get out of our own way. When we let our ego and “what we deserve” become a hurdle that we can’t cross then somehow we end up “getting what we deserve…”

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